The History and Craft of the Classic Apron Front Sink
Blanco's blend of craft and tech adopt a classic sink form for the modern kitchen.
The fireclay kitchen sink has been produced for centuries using the same fundamental, artisanal process. For over 90 years, German manufacturer BLANCO has worked with craftspeople to maintain this tradition. Now, the company offers apron front sinks in three materials, including a new fireclay model. The PROFINA™, IKON®, and QUATRUS™ R15 models each have their own advantages, but they all date back to a classic form that’s been tested by time.
By the late 17th century, apron front sinks were already becoming a staple in European homes. With similar models popularized in Belfast, London, and France, fireclay sinks in butlers’ pantries were made wide and deep, with facades exposed and, in the case of the Belfast, an overflow that allowed water to spill without damaging the surrounding counters and cabinets.
Before plumbing was a standard amenity, water had to be carried into homes from wells or rivers, so part of the sink’s function was to hold as much as possible. And because so much of the housework was performed while hovering over these basins, apron-fronts were placed at a lower, more comfortable height than sinks recessed into waist-high counters. Used for everything from scrubbing crockery to bathing children, apron-fronts were at once robust and ergonomic.
At BLANCO, production of this kitchen staple still relies on hand-perfected skills and artistry passed down through generations. A fireclay sink is made in a pressure cast, says Tim Maicher, Director of Marketing at BLANCO, “but when clay is still in its raw form, it’s all about people.” The high-quality finishes of BLANCO sinks demand the human touch; when clay is still wet and pliable, artisans smooth out surfaces and ensure a high quality finish that can’t be guaranteed with strictly machined parts. “Technology reduces variance and adds consistency,” Maicher continues, “but people add a level of quality and detail that comes through in the aesthetics of the piece.”
This harkening back to fireclay, a material with a deep history, has produced PROFINA™, BLANCO’s new offering, which includes modern features making the sink fit for use in today’s homes. With the aid of advanced casting equipment, craftspeople produce PROFINA™ sinks with a svelte wall only ¾” thick. This model also features a built-in accessory ledge for such accoutrements as the included beechwood cutting board, while other parts, like dish racks and grids for the sink floor, are also available.
Fireclay isn’t the only material which gives these time-tested sinks form. But even when they’re fashioned out of SILGRANIT®, BLANCO’s patented, high-tech granite composite, the maker’s mark is still evident. IKON®, the first apron front sink of its kind, “is probably the most handcrafted piece in SILGRANIT®,” says Maicher. Every part of the process is overseen by experts—from the production of the composite material to its casting into the final shape. The material is known for its ease of cleaning and variety of color options; the 30” model comes in 8 neutral SILGRANIT® colors, and BLANCO’s new larger 33” model comes in Anthracite, Café Brown, White, and Metallic Gray.
Most recently, BLANCO introduced a third option, the QUATRUS™ R15 in stainless steel, which also shows evidence of artisanal production. The apron front form makes the typical stainless steel production processes difficult. “You can’t fold steel into an apron, you have to have a craftsperson put it together,” says Maicher. The QUATRUS™ is the ultimate match between the high-tech possibilities of steel—ease and affordability of maintenance—with a robust, traditional form that dates back centuries. This is only possible, Maicher emphasizes, because of the partnership that has become the force of innovation at BLANCO. “It’s the close relationship between an engineer who works on paper and the craftspeople who work in three dimensions making the designs and ideas a reality.”